Pope John Paul II’s Ford Escort Hits The Auction Block

A 1976 Ford Escort 1100 GL sedan that was once owned by Pope John Paul II is hitting the Sotheby’s auction block this fall and is expected to sell between $150,000 and $300,000 US. The late Pope, who was born Karol Jozef Wojtyla in Wadowice, Poland, possessed the light blue vehicle prior to his 1978 election as head of the Catholic Church.

“The papal Ford Escort represents a rare collecting opportunity and the ultimate conversation piece,” Gord Duff, global head of auctions for RM Sotheby’s Group, noted in a news release (via ClassicCars.com).

The Escort was sold to support Vatican charities in the mid-1990s and then remained in storage until 1996 when a man named Jim Rich bought it at auction for $102,000, according to NBC News. The vehicle was in its original papal condition without hubcaps, air conditioning, or radio. It also had several scratches and dents.

Rich vowed to showcase the Escort at his Chicago West restaurant and never part with it. However, he wound up having financial problems and was forced to part with the vehicle after using it as a daily driver for some time.

Houston millionaire and avid car collector John O’Quinn bought the Escort at auction in 2005 for $690,000. When O’Quinn purchased the car, Pope John Paul II had recently died, which was likely the cause of its inflated value. O’Quinn said at the time of purchase: “The car will never be driven, but hopefully, in my life, I’ll be able to go back and touch this car and feel the pope’s spirit.”

RM Sotheby’s will auction the vehicle during the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Festival from Aug. 31 to Sept. 2 (Labor Day weekend) at the Auburn Auction Park in northeastern Indiana. Proceeds from the auction will be donated to the John M. O’Quinn Foundation, which aids underprivileged youth in the Houston, Texas, area.

Fun facts about the Ford Escort:

  • The Mark II (1975-1980) was a famous rally car
  • Princess Diana owned a black Mark I Escort RS Turbo
  • The Ford Escort was replaced by the Ford Focus in 1999 for the 2000 model year in North America, but Escort production continued until 2002
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